Matthew 5:17 Ministries

Torah and Prayer

Focus Verse:

Proverbs 28:9 (CJB)
9  If a person will not listen to Torah,
even his prayer is an abomination.

Refusing To Listen

In Mishlei (Proverbs) 28:9, Solomon paints a picture of G-d as betrayed and disgusted with those who refuse to listen to the Torah. This verse could refer to general instruction and not specifically the Torah. Even so, the verse rings true. Unteachable people often hold an inflated image of their knowledge, an attitude that reflects a person’s relationship with G-d.

The person described turns away (meyseer) his ear from hearing (mishmoah) the Torah, this last being the same verb form as in the Shema ( Deut. 6:4). This is not describing merely a person who is ignorant of the Torah. That person’s prayers are not necessarily abominable. There is hope for the ignorant to become learned. Instead, Solomon describes the person who hears and rejects Torah’s teachings. Those who reject G-d’s moral standard, source of spiritual strength, and ultimately G-d’s redemption through Messiah are the ones whose prayers are an abomination to G-d.

Empty Ritualism

The word translated as abomination (to’evah) is the same word used to describe sexual sins, including homosexuality, bestiality, and incest (Lev. 18:22). This is a powerful word. The prayers of those who reject G-d’s teaching are offensive to him. Far from winning points with G-d, those who reject his word and then offer him prayers are offending him by their pretense.

Yeshua and along with the prophets spoke of such pretense. Samuel admonishes Saul’s ritualism: “Obeying is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22). Isaiah speaks for G-d, who cries out, “Why are all those sacrifices offered to me?” (Isa. 1:11). Hosea also speaks for G-d who instructs, “What I desire is mercy (chesed, loyalty or devotion), not sacrifices, knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hos. 6:6). Yeshua blasts religious hypocrites who fast with sour faces or who pray on street corners (Matt. 6:5, 16). These are all victims of the disease known as ritualism.

G-d does hear the prayers of unbelievers, provided they are open and seeking him (Jer. 29:13). But G-d does not listen to those who knowingly reject his revealed truth and/or no longer pursue him.
Marriage is a helpful analogy for understanding G-d’s point of view on this matter. Imagine a husband who speaks romantic words to his wife and yet is known to be adulterous. Imagine the disgust those romantic words are met with, words that would otherwise invoke joy and warmth. So are such expressions of worship offered to G-d by those who are not faithful to his Word.

The common idea is that it is possible to “put in one’s time” with G-d. This fallacy occurs at many levels and includes those who practice empty rituals (a prayer book, a service at the shul [synagogue], or even a “quiet time”) instead of knowing and heeding the living G-d. This may be an unbeliever who hides behind the practice of religion, a secular person who scoffs at G-d’s Word yet speaks of a “personal spirituality,” or even a believer who has “personal devotions” at dawn but lives for themselves the rest of the day.
This is not to be confused with sins of weakness and failure but refers to willful sin and rejection of G-d’s teaching in any area.


Those who reject G-d’s Word, even a specific word (one commandment), are not in communion with him. Turning away one’s ear is a deliberate choice. One who does such would do better not to pray unless the prayer is one of repentance. I urge you to take a moral inventory of your life and consider the possibility that you are rejecting a commandment or even commandments of G-d. Confess and repent of any rebellion you discover.